When in Rome: Zacarias continues his journey

Timorese seminarian Zacarias Exposto, featured in our 2016 Seminarian Appeal has been sent to Rome to continue his studies.

Back in 2016 we shared the story of Timorese seminarian Zacarias Exposto, a young man deeply impacted by the horrendous unrest and violence imposed on Timor-Leste and its people following the referendum which freed the country from Indonesian occupation 20 years ago.

While many were fleeing for their lives, Zacarias’ father decided to stay behind with his young family. Having been a part of Timor-Leste’s independence movement, and with so much pride and confidence in his newly freed homeland, he refused to give up on the dreams he held for the future of his beloved country.

Zacarias, who was just seven years old at the time, has never forgotten the fear he felt as he hugged his two baby sisters tightly, wiping their tears as they watched their neighbours leave for the border. This memory still inspires him to be with and comfort people during troubling times and is a constant reminder of his calling to become a priest and help his country be strong and proud.


Today, Zacarias still believes that many of the challenges of the people of Timor-Leste are related to the country’s past. As he says, ‘The major challenge that Timorese people are facing now is in politics. There is no common sense and understanding between the parties, which causes social injustice and leads to the conflict of the vulnerable peoples.’

He feels the Church and future Church leaders like himself have an important part to play, ‘In this case the mission of the Church is to promote the education of peace, of justice and of the faith, and be the mother to welcome or receive those who have fallen,’ he says. ‘We can be the mediator gathering them all by the conference, dialogues or other pastoral activities relating to the Christian teaching about faith, peace and justice.’

Zacarias, who is now 27 years old, has recently completed his four years of philosophy studies at St Peter and St Paul Major Seminary in Dili, Timor-Leste. He believes his studies so far, together with outreach work which has seen him engaged with leading the choir group in Easter and Christmas Day celebrations, catechism, and formation for categorical groups and students, have helped him gain critical skills and knowledge, which serve at the base of being a disciple of Christ.

Four months ago, Zacarias embarked on the next part of his journey to priesthood as he commenced his theology studies at the St John Paul II Metropolitan Seminary in Salerno, a province in the south of Italy.

While Zacarias finds that the Italian language and culture can be challenging, he is very much enjoying his time in Italy. ‘I can meet and experience the new life, new culture and new people,’ he says. ‘These all will enrich my vision and my mission about the diversity and unity of the Church.’ He also believes it will make him a better priest. ‘I observe what is happening, I learn what is good here and then I will share and live it with my own principle and my vocation.’ He says he is encouraged to keep studying hard by God’s grace.

Zacarias will study in Italy for the next three to four years, following which he will await the advice of his bishop, whether that is to continue his studies or return to Timor-Leste to serve the Church and people there. When asked what kind of priest he wants to become, he says, ‘I want to be a good priest. It means a priest that lives his life in charity, poverty and obedience.’

Seminarians like Zacarias, who often come from poor and disadvantaged communities, are only able to follow their calling to the priesthood thanks to the generous support of Catholic Mission donors. Zacarias is extremely grateful for the support he has received through Catholic Mission’s work with Church leaders. ‘I want to thank all of those who have supported me directly or indirectly by material, moral or spiritual support,’ he says. ‘May God always bless all of us to bring His name and His Kingdom to the world. Greetings, love and prayer!’